Abortion services would be outsourced to “under-resourced and overstretched” GP practices if legislative recommendations to replace the Eighth Amendment are introduced, it has been claimed.
During debates in the Dáil and Seanad which included many impassioned speeches arguing both sides, it was suggested that the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment would place massive pressure on GPs.
Senator and GP Keith Swanick told the Seanad: “In effect, it is proposed that GPs would prescribe abortion pills and that they would be taken under medical supervision of a GP.
“The proposal would be to outsource the abortion clinic services, to an already under-resourced and overstretched general practice setting.”
Opening the debate in the Dáil, Health Minister Simon Harris said members are now coming face to face with history, as they debate abortion and detailed the number of women in each county who travelled to the UK for abortions in 2016.
He said: “We can no longer tolerate a law which denies care and understanding to women who are our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our wives.”
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher claimed the Eighth Amendment had made “second class citizens” of women, adding that asking people to FedEx remains home in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities is “inhumane”.
Committee member Anne Rabbitte, who voted against a number of recommendations in the report, told the Dáil that she would “most definitely” want a referendum on what she described as “a very emotive issue”.
But the Fianna Fáil TD added: “I think a lot out there who would sit more comfortably [in allowing abortions] in relation to rape and incest as opposed to the 12 weeks,” as was recommended in the committee report.
This view was echoed by a number of Fianna Fáil TDs and senators at a meeting of the parliamentary party which lasted more than three hours last night.
Fellow committee member and Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said: “I don’t think there is a person in this Sate who wants to go backward on this issue, however far forward people want to, if you want to go one stop, two stops, three stops or 50 stops ahead, I think we are all agreed we want to go forward.”
Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton said that if Ireland did nothing about reforming the abortion laws and the use of abortion pills, some woman will rupture her uterus and die.
However, Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said the Eighth Amendment had “saved” thousands of lives.
“Are we going to have a situation in the future that people will play God with these people’s lives? It is the right of these people to be born as much as anyone else.”
In the Seanad, independent senator Ronán Mullins, also a member of the abortion committee who rejected its report, said people would be “stunned by the early stage sophistication” of a foetus.
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